Please join the COA family in welcoming our newest writer, Mary Miles! Mary’s bio will be available shortly on our About page. Subscribe to COA so you don’t miss her upcoming debut piece Back on Mountain Time
You say you are “river born and mountain raised” If you had to choose, river or mountain, which would you pick and why?
Oh, I set myself up for that, didn’t I? Sigh. I think the point is that I need both, as they have both become vital parts of my being. I was born water. That always makes me refer to Mary Oliver when she says “it is the nature of stone/to be satisfied/it is the nature of water/to want to be somewhere else”. I think I was made with this internal need or desire to be somewhere other than wherever I happen to be, and I believe that’s why I can’t give people a straight answer when they want to know where my “home” is. Mountains, though, are part of who I have become. When we look at mountains, we see something solid and steady, but in reality they are constantly shifting in very small ways. You can climb a mountain a thousand times and be challenged by it in a thousand different ways every time. I think that is so beautiful and so interestingly representative of humanity. But in a more literal sense, climbing mountains has shown me a strength to lead and to persevere that I didn’t know I had. But you know what? I’m going to throw you for a loop here. Offer me river and mountain– I’ll choose forest.
So, your aim is to be a professional translator. Why that?
Funnily enough, translation has been suggested as a potential job many times in the past– and I never really considered it as something I wanted to do until this year. I studied the French and German languages and literatures, and at some point during my first year as a teaching assistant in Germany it hit me: if I study translation (and I’d like to focus on literary translation), I would be able to spend my working life constantly reading, questioning, and evolving within the languages I speak. Translation is an art within itself; you can’t just look at the words. You really have to get deep into the emotions and the cultural backgrounds of the characters and try to interpret feeling…and then find words for it in your native language. I would ideally like to publish my own works as well, but starting a career in translation seems like it might offer very rich soil for my potential growth as a writer.
Where does Miles come from?
Miles is a name I’ve been using since 2012, when I started working as a camp counselor for a Girl Scout residential camp right outside the Adirondack Park. I’m a lifetime Girl Scout, and I attended this camp for several years as a child before returning to work there in 2012 and 2013. The staff at the camp use “camp names” – made-up or funny names that the campers call us throughout the summer. It’s sort of a way to denote who is an authority figure without having the children refer to us using titles. The names can be anything in theory, but generally reflect something about what we like or our personalities. While I originally came up with it by including the first letters of my first and last name, it has become more fitting as I have continued to travel and explore and when I worked as a backpacking guide. The easy answer, though, is that it’s short for the “miles to go before I sleep” from the Robert Frost poem.
And, what’s your favorite color?
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